Brandi M. Montague, 31, of Soldotna, made her first felony court appearance Friday after Soldotna police arrested her for allegedly stealing more than $53,000 from River City Pull Tabs on Wednesday. Police charged Montague with first degree theft, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a $100,000 fine.
"We were contacted by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce," said Sgt. Duane Kant of the Soldotna Police Department. "(The chamber) identified her as the suspect."
According to the court charging document signed by Kant, Montague is accused of stealing $53,188.64 from River City Pull Tabs, which is owned and operated by the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, between July 2006 and June 2007.
According to the statement, Montague said she used the money to support her addiction to painkillers and would rip the pull tabs and cash out any winnings. The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce discovered the theft after an annual audit conducted by Lambe, Tuter and Wagner Certified Public Accountants showed a suspicious loss.
Michelle Glaves, executive director of the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, said Montague worked as a pull tab clerk at River City Pull Tabs for about three years. She said two to three employees were on duty during Montague's shift, but couldn't comment on why the chamber suspected Montague.
"We do financial audits for the chamber and River City Pull Tabs every year," Glaves said. "We've done that for over 10 years."
Kant said the chamber identified Montague as a suspect as a result of the audit they conducted. The court charging document stated that Glaves said Montague cooperated with the chamber's investigation and admitted to the theft.
Because Montague was charged with a felony the Kenai District Court did not have the jurisdiction to arraign her. Kenai District Attorney June Stein said Montague can only be arraigned in a superior court.
Kenai District Court Judge Matthew Christian set a preliminary court date for March 24 at 3:30 p.m. and an out of custody hearing April 3 at 3:30 p.m. Montague will be indicted by the grand jury before the preliminary hearing, he said.
When the judge set bail, Assistant District Attorney Devoron Hill recommended a third party custodian for Montague because of a previous reckless driving conviction, the large amount of money she is accused of stealing from an employer and Montague's admittance that the money was used to fuel a drug addiction.
In court, Montague said she had a child at home and wanted to enter Serenity House, a drug and alcohol treatment facility run by Central Peninsula Hospital.
Christian set an appearance bond at $5,000 and told Montague she is to have no contact with River City Pull Tabs and she must find a third party custodian to be with her 24 hours a day.
The investigation is continuing and Stein said additional charges could be forthcoming.
Jessica Cejnar can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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